Vale offers pay raise at Long Harbour

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Incentives an attempt to increase productivity, keep skilled workers

For Vale the math is simple: give millions of dollars to construction workers now and save millions of dollars in labour costs from missed deadlines.

As of July 15, Vale Newfoundland and Labrador is boosting pay for skilled trades workers at Long Harbour, the site of its new hydromet-processing facility.

Construction there is about 86 per cent complete.

The pay raise will be as much as $5 an hour to start, running to as high as $10 if company goals are met and project work comes in on schedule, to the end of October.

The initial raise will be paid out on regular cheques and the rest will come to workers as a bonus, once the project work is complete.

About 4,800 people are working on the Long Harbour project. Factoring in shift change and turnarounds, that amounts to about 3,600 on site each day.

The workforce is expected to drop to about a third of its current level by early 2014. The new pay incentive is meant to keep workers from jumping ship in the meantime.

It is also aimed at boosting overall productivity and reducing worker absenteeism.

“You have to be here in order to get paid and I think that’s a reasonable request,” said Michael O’Sullivan, Vale’s project director, speaking with reporters at the Long Harbour site Tuesday.

“We are paying out a big sum of money, but we need something in return.”

The incentive program will cost the company millions on top of its existing capital costs.

“It clearly has an impact on cost, but if you think of the number of people who are on our site, if we’re able to pull the completion deadline forward, it pays for itself,” said Vale spokesman Bob Carter.

He said the company has already worked to increase productivity outside of offering the pay incentive, including working with contractors for better materials management and logistics — making sure workers do not have to go hunting for what they need to do their work at any given time.

While a clear benefit, the new incentive program comes as the project is consolidating its existing workforce, laying off some workers and bringing in more foreign workers to deal with shortages in particular trades.

Carter said the company is working with the trade unions to source needed workers, including those coming from outside the country.

Of note, 250 welders are needed to finish the Long Harbour project.

As previously reported by The Telegram, Vale wound down work on the lower tier area at site, around the port, on Friday. It is shifting skilled workers from there to essential work elsewhere on site, including about 30 welders.

The shift will see 200-300 other workers laid off — not being in a trade in high demand.

Carter said a shortage of needed welders will mean Vale will likely bring in some or all of those workers from the United States or Ireland.

“In order to get a temporary foreign worker permit, these days in Canada, you have to be very clear with the federal government that you have exhausted all possibility to source any of those resources in the country,” he said.

He said the company wants to get construction completed, but will not compromise on safety — willing to fire unsafe workers if needed.

“We will be focusing on handing over construction, at the end of October, essentially to our commissioning and startup team,” he said.

That team will begin running the plant’s piping with water, stepping up to starting up the processing facility with high-quality nickel matte from Indonesia mixed in with Voisey’s Bay ore, allowing for operators to ease the system forward step by step toward full capacity on Voisey’s ore.

Looking ahead to operations, the mining company has received about 4,000 applicants for about 500 long-term technician positions at the site.

“The vast majority of those are from the province,” Carter said.

About 228 people have been hired for the long-term operational positions to date — about half of what the company needs once the facility is operational and at maximum capacity.

Geographic location: Long Harbour, United States, Ireland Canada Indonesia

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Recent comments

  • Vonroy Martin
    August 15, 2013 - 08:46

    I am a CWB SMAW and applied for several jobs some when times l even get a reply it is you not qualified.

  • Michael
    July 27, 2013 - 20:26

    Look at it this way. If this was your business and it was way over budget and way outside of the original timeframe, what would you do? Simple answer, close the doors. A company weather its big or small cannot sustain an impact like this when they are in an era of cutting costs. Especially when the project (LHPP) is not making a dime. Is it unreasonable now a days to expect that when you pay millions of dollars for a product, that you would get the said product? When you pay your light bill on time, what do you expect? Again, same simple answer, power, to be there on time and when needed as agreed upon. If you were on time and your service was interrupted, how would you feel? The sad thing is, newfies have always been looked upon as hard workers that companies would hire in a instant. I think that is not the case anymore and projects lie this indicate as such. Regardless who is to blame. This is also a case where if you are a big corporation and this is the product you see from a project in Newfoundland, it must raise flags to stay clear of Newfoundland and its people as it looks as though they cannot deliver. That simple. Blame it on the workers, blame it on Flour, blame it on Kbac, blame it on vale, blame it on the unions, blame it on who you like, does not change the fact they we have a multi billion dollar project that is still over budget and out of its scheduled timeframe for completion. To me it makes everyone look bad and makes Newfoundland look like a place where a big corporation should not invest. That is the last thing I want to see. I want to see Newfoundland and the people of this amazing province prosper and live excellent well to do lives where they don't have to leave this province to find work.

    • None of your Business
      January 16, 2014 - 21:19

      This was a huge project, don't you think that factored in logistics and weather constraints were a problem?

  • what
    July 25, 2013 - 07:32

    huh....this article needs to be updated asap. July 2013 they are laying off a substantial amount of employee's without the required 30 days notice. Ask around "locally" fluor employees are being sent home.

  • rocky
    July 24, 2013 - 19:29

    To the untrained eye of the general public regarding the Long Harbour Processing Plant, the media and management make it seem that the unionized workers of this province are lazy. Now by no means is that the case. Yes there are lazy people there, but there are also alot of good trade skilled individuals who would like for this plant to be built to date,and work hard to do so. Yes the pay is good, yes the incentive is good. But it is not a raise. An incentive is something that motivates an individual to perform an action. The craft schedule is 14 days worked and 7 off. So for the 14 days, if you work everyday, every hour you will recieve 2 dollars for the 140 hours worked over the 14 days. Miss a day, and you lose it. Im not sure if the fact of a doctors note will cancel that notion or not. If you are layed off, you will recieve a cheque for 3 dollars and hour from date of layoff, back to july 15th for your hours worked within that time. If phase 1 is completed by october 31st you will get a pay of 5 dollars an hour for hours worked back dating to july 5th. Now, i''m not complaining about this, but i am making it cear to the general public and to other companies who look at this job as a joke. Is there a shortage of workers right now? No, and who ever thinks so is a poor business individal with either little experience or no common sense. If materials were avaiable on time, the job would have been done on time. The fact that most of this plant was pre-fabed in another country should have never been done. It should have been done in Newfoundland and small contracts throughout Canada. If work packs were issued at a good pace the job would be done on a good pace. Are there more pipefitters and welders needed? No, issue the work, provde the right materials, and the job will be done. Newfoundland can handle this work, yes travel cards are needed, but to go out of a country now to bring in worker is outragous. As long as the management doesnt change, the job will never change, supposing its unionized workers or non-unionized worker. Change the management, and the job will recieve a great facelift.

  • Elizabeth
    July 24, 2013 - 11:23

    Pretty confident in saying your reading between the lines is a failure. It's called compensation, not bribery. Vale desires a particular behaviour and they're rewarding those that give it to them. it's not a hard concept. Keeping large projects on schedule is important and they've obviously tried other ways and this is what it's resorted to. People don't care whether or not its done on time but Vale obviously does, so what better way to get people to work more effectively. It's got nothing to do with unions or grievances.

  • J
    July 24, 2013 - 08:22

    So, reading between the lines of this article this is what I read: Vale, in an effort to minimize wildcat strikes and union grievances and people turning a days work into a weeks work that will undoubtedly flair up as the end of the project approaches, are attempting to pre-empt these extortive action by bribing the workers to toe the line.